By: Danny Aiello Jr
With spring break coming up, the county baseball season has reached the halfway point. With tournaments over the break, the teams will look to get on the right track and build momentum heading into the second half and district tournaments.
Nature Coast Sharks 11-1 (8-1 5A-7) Place: First
Led by Jonathan Gates the Sharks have led the pack and are sitting in pole position at the midway mark. Gates is hitting .568 with three home runs and 25 runs batted in. Of his 21 hits, 14 have gone for extra bases. Alongside Ryan Lotito (4 wins, 1 save), Gates has a 0.56 ERA with 44 strikeouts across 25 innings, giving Frank Vitale a 1-2 punch come district play. The Sharks knocked off Central and Weeki Wachee going into the break, but still have a key district game against Hernando and a rivalry game with Springstead left to play.
Hernando Leopards 8-4 (7-2 5A-7) Place: Second
Coach Tim Sims has a team that will run until you throw them out, swiping 43 bags in 51 chances so far this campaign. Brad Ellis (.355), Tyson Libengood (.351) and Gabe Bonilla (.324) are all hitting well as the Leopards are in second place, a game back of the leading Sharks. Having dropped a close game to Nature Coast that Hernando blew in the seventh inning, the Leopards have the April 1st home game circled as a chance to flex their muscle in the district. On the mound Elijah Ramirez has a 1.35 ERA across 20.2 innings alongside three wins and 21 stirkeouts. Hernando has won four straight district tilts going into the break and have three left in the second half.
Central Bears 7-5 (4-4 5A-7) Place: Fourth
Central made a shocking run in the district tournament a year ago, despite being the sixth seed with a 5-7 district record. The path for a repeat will be harder this season as the district has improved, but you can never count out skipper Al Sorrentino’s squad. After starting 6-1, the Bears have stumbled of late, but there is reason to expect a strong second half. Of their four district losses, three have come by two runs or less, and the pitching has been solid. Dylan McMahon (2.74 ERA, 14 strikeouts) and Keslter Harbuck (3.11 ERA, 23 strikeouts) anchor a Central staff that can be dangerous in district play. If the Bears can get their bats going anything can happen.
Springstead Eagles 10-3 (9-0 6A-6) Place: First
Undefeated in the district play, Springstead is hitting .250 as a team and outscoring opponents nearly 3-to-1. With only one district game remaining, the Eagles have locked up the 1-seed in the district tournament and will be working on getting hot and keeping momentum into the playoffs. Senior Miguel Martinez has a 0.86 ERA across 32.2 innings and a shiny 4-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. Alongside Noah Siem (0.34 ERA, 27 strikeouts) the Eagles offer the districts best 1-2 punch on the mound. Jake Murray (.357), Stephen Beinstock (.326) and Luke Lafferty (.326) anchor a lineup that has scored 75 runs across 13 games.
Weeki Wachee Hornets 4-11 (2-7 6A-6) Place: Sixth
Despite struggling in a tough district, Weeki Wachee hasn’t played as bad as their record would indicate. Coach Patrick McHugh has some solid pitching building blocks in Cameron Sereda and Dalton Mosser. Sereda boasts a 0.71 ERA across 19.2 innings and the left-handed junior has 18 strikeouts. Only a sophomore, Mosser has a 1.33 ERA across 26.1 innings alongside 35 strikeouts. On the offensive side, Jeff Misener (.385), Marc Swarrow (.342, 9 RBI)and Nick Scarangella (.355) have led the Hornet’s bats. Weeki Wachee will need to play better defense behind Sereda and record timely hits to make noise in the district tournament.